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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Default Wagner and Israel

    I was reading in the news a new polemic because there are plans for interpret the music of Wagner in Israel. As all we know, Wagner was an antisemite, and Hitler was his admirer. Of course, I have the position that the artistic value of Wagner's music is independent of his racists ideas. But I'm not jew. I try to think in their side and is hard. How you reconcile your admiration for a person who have ideas against your own people?

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    The Israelites have reason to ban a good many things... like Ford cars who's founder was Hitler's single greatest inspiration and the host of German and American companies who exploited Jewish slave labour and helped make the German front and Holocaust possible.

    That they go with ​a composer who died half a century before any of this is a bit odd.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    I was reading in the news a new polemic because there are plans for interpret the music of Wagner in Israel. As all we know, Wagner was an antisemite, and Hitler was his admirer. Of course, I have the position that the artistic value of Wagner's music is independent of his racists ideas. But I'm not jew. I try to think in their side and is hard. How you reconcile your admiration for a person who have ideas against your own people?
    As a white male Evangelical Christian and citizen of the USA, no one has ever really been able to do more than resent me. "My people" haven't experienced anything like the Jews have. And it's impossible to separate music from culture.

    But I think it's perfectly possible to love the art of an enemy people. Perhaps not right during the war, but years afterwards....

    There used to be a bit of this kind of thing in Korea with Japanese culture. But eventually they got over it. I think the thing that makes it harder for Israelis is that Wagner is not merely foreign: his music is closer to something inside them, European culture, and a big part of the pain over the holocaust is a sense of betrayal. So it's not just an enemy people's music, it's something deeper.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Senior Member Hesoos's Avatar
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    The main point is the music.

    Napoleon was an evil creature and like Hitler and Stalin caused a lot of dead. But Napoleon spread the French Revolution equality ideals.

    Wagner was a rascist, but he spread a wonderful music.

    Is the Wagner's music rascist? I don't think so... But his music is really wonderful.
    You can not admire Wagner like a person (he was untruthful to all the people), but like a genius is admirable... and that is the point

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    Senior Member Hesoos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    As a white male Evangelical Christian and citizen of the USA, no one has ever really been able to do more than resent me. "My people" haven't experienced anything like the Jews have. And it's impossible to separate music from culture.

    But I think it's perfectly possible to love the art of an enemy people. Perhaps not right during the war, but years afterwards....

    There used to be a bit of this kind of thing in Korea with Japanese culture. But eventually they got over it. I think the thing that makes it harder for Israelis is that Wagner is not merely foreign: his music is closer to something inside them, European culture, and a big part of the pain over the holocaust is a sense of betrayal. So it's not just an enemy people's music, it's something deeper.
    Wagner admired Meyerbeer. Meyerbeer helped Wagner (I think Wagner became rascist because he was jealous to Meyerbeer). Mahler admired Wagner a lot. Mahler just thought of Wagner's music I think, no matter what like of person Wagner was.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hesoos View Post
    The main point is the music.

    Napoleon was an evil creature and like Hitler and Stalin caused a lot of dead. But Napoleon spread the French Revolution equality ideals.

    Wagner was a rascist, but he spread a wonderful music.

    Is the Wagner's music rascist? I don't think so... But his music is really wonderful.
    You can not admire Wagner like a person (he was untruthful to all the people), but like a genius is admirable... and that is the point
    Yes, you are right, I agree, it's a valid objective analysis. But that's not the question. The question is about the internal conflict of the hypothetical listener. You feel admiration for the person, but at the same time you know that this person has an irrational hate for people like you. I mean, all that objective analysis is nice, but I think is not that easy. Since the good is more memorable than the evil, I suppose that Science is correct. I think that the conflict will puzzle the listener but in the long term will be sufficiently moved by the music as to forget the issue.
    Last edited by aleazk; Jun-14-2012 at 07:42.

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    The British actor Stephen Fry made a fascinating documentary about this a few years back called Wagner & Me. HERE is the trailer on youtube. Mr. Fry is speaking about these inner conflicts as both a Wagnerite and a person of Jewish heritage who lost relatives in the Holocaust.

    My personal take on this is that anti-Semitism does creep through in Wagner's music. Parsifal is the best example, its megalomania has been criticised by many writers on music, even those who praise its music. Listening to that, one is not surprised how some Wagnerites take this guy's pseudo religion and turn it into their own 'religion,' even though it ain't no real religion. But anyway.

    I've said this a million times on this forum, Wagner's personal ideology was based on the pseudo scientific racialist theories of de Gobineau and H.S. Chamberlain. Both where admirers of Wagner's music, Chamberlain (a Brit) even took up German citizenship as a result of his worshipping German culture and Aryan 'race.'

    I'm not Jewish yet I detest this guy and all he stood for. The only thing of use was his innovations in music, that's basically it. In any case, I think his operas are long-winded and badly needed editing. If you think that's going too far, well I think a good deal of people think this (I've talked to some), but they won't admit it openly, as Wagner has to be idolised as a God.

    His middle period operas I'm okay with to a degree, eg. Tannhauser or Lohengrin, but I think in The Ring and esp. Parsifal, he went too far. He turned music into a pseudo religion which I think is as I said, megalomania.

    Other thing is I think it's his political exile in Switzerland that may have turned him bitter and in need of a scapegoat. I don't think it was Meyerbeer, to be honest. In Switzerland, Wagner wasted like 5 or 10 years writing anti-Semitic tracts. He would have been better to spend time writing music, methinks.

    A complex man indeed. But if Israel doesn't want to play his music (although it's no longer banned there, thanks to the efforts of Daniel Barenboim decades ago), I don't think they're missing out on much, to tell you the truth.

    There you go, a totally biased opinion.
    Last edited by Sid James; Jun-14-2012 at 08:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    The British actor Stephen Fry made a fascinating documentary about this a few years back called Wagner & Me. HERE is the trailer on youtube. Mr. Fry is speaking about these inner conflicts as both a Wagnerite and a person of Jewish heritage who lost relatives in the Holocaust.

    My personal take on this is that anti-Semitism does creep through in Wagner's music. Parsifal is the best example, its megalomania has been criticised by many writers on music, even those who praise its music. Listening to that, one is not surprised how some Wagnerites take this guy's pseudo religioan and turn it into their own 'religion,' even though it ain't no real religion. But anyway.

    I've said this a million times on this forum, Wagner's personal ideology was based on the pseudo scientific racialist theories of de Gobineau and H.S. Chamberlain. Both where admirers of Wagner's music, Chamberlain (a Brit) even took up German citizenship as a result of his worshipping German culture and Aryan 'race.'

    I'm not Jewish yet I detest this guy and all he stood for. The only thing of use was his innovations in music, that's basically it. In any case, I think his operas are long-winded and badly needed editing. If you think that's going too far, well I think a good deal of people think this (I've talked to some), but they won't admit it openly, as Wagner has to be idolised as a God.

    His middle period operas I'm okay with to a degree, eg. Tannhauser or Lohengrin, but I think in The Ring and esp. Parsifal, he went too far. He turned music into a pseudo religion which I think is as I said, megalomania.

    Other thing is I think it's his political exile in Switzerland that may have turned him bitter and in need of a scapegoat. I don't think it was Meyerbeer, to be honest. In Switzerland, Wagner wasted like 5 or 10 years writing anti-Semitic tracts. He would have been better to spend time writing music, methinks.

    A complex man indeed. But if Israel doesn't want to play his music (although it's no longer banned there, thanks to the efforts of Daniel Barenboim decades ago), I don't think they're missing out on much, to tell you the truth.

    There you go, a totally biased opinion.
    But you have listened to his music and done your darnedest to give it a fair shot, which is what I would ask of future generations if I ever produce anything I consider "great art" and find that my worldview becomes detestable to them.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    The British actor Stephen Fry made a fascinating documentary about this a few years back called Wagner & Me. HERE is the trailer on youtube. Mr. Fry is speaking about these inner conflicts as both a Wagnerite and a person of Jewish heritage who lost relatives in the Holocaust.

    My personal take on this is that anti-Semitism does creep through in Wagner's music. Parsifal is the best example, its megalomania has been criticised by many writers on music, even those who praise its music. Listening to that, one is not surprised how some Wagnerites take this guy's pseudo religion and turn it into their own 'religion,' even though it ain't no real religion. But anyway.

    I've said this a million times on this forum, Wagner's personal ideology was based on the pseudo scientific racialist theories of de Gobineau and H.S. Chamberlain. Both where admirers of Wagner's music, Chamberlain (a Brit) even took up German citizenship as a result of his worshipping German culture and Aryan 'race.'

    I'm not Jewish yet I detest this guy and all he stood for. The only thing of use was his innovations in music, that's basically it. In any case, I think his operas are long-winded and badly needed editing. If you think that's going too far, well I think a good deal of people think this (I've talked to some), but they won't admit it openly, as Wagner has to be idolised as a God.

    His middle period operas I'm okay with to a degree, eg. Tannhauser or Lohengrin, but I think in The Ring and esp. Parsifal, he went too far. He turned music into a pseudo religion which I think is as I said, megalomania.

    Other thing is I think it's his political exile in Switzerland that may have turned him bitter and in need of a scapegoat. I don't think it was Meyerbeer, to be honest. In Switzerland, Wagner wasted like 5 or 10 years writing anti-Semitic tracts. He would have been better to spend time writing music, methinks.

    A complex man indeed. But if Israel doesn't want to play his music (although it's no longer banned there, thanks to the efforts of Daniel Barenboim decades ago), I don't think they're missing out on much, to tell you the truth.

    There you go, a totally biased opinion.
    I will see Fry's documentary, that's precisely what I was looking for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    The Israelites have reason to ban a good many things... like Ford cars who's founder was Hitler's single greatest inspiration and the host of German and American companies who exploited Jewish slave labour and helped make the German front and Holocaust possible.

    That they go with ​a composer who died half a century before any of this is a bit odd.
    Ford is not banned in Israel. Ford Focus is actually one of the most popular cars to be given to workers in big companies.

    Recently there were some plans to include Wagner in a concert in Israel, but as always it was canceled. The main opposers are actually the Holocaust survivors, which is perfectly understandable sine Wagner's music was also heard in the concentration camps. I believe that in 20 years the situation there will change .

    BTW - Is it really impossible to be antisemite, write an essay about the "Judaism in Music" in a negative sense, and then write operas and not include even a bit of your ideology in your libretto?
    Last edited by Chrythes; Jun-14-2012 at 10:39.

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    The Fry documentary is really not that interesting and is very centered on "him". In the end he concludes that even if Wagner was a bit of a *******, his music is fundamentally good, and then Mr. Fry happily wanders into the Bayreuther Festspielhaus to attend his first Bayreuth production.

    I disagree with the general gist of Sid James's post.

    Wagner was indeed a very complex person, often unpleasant, as many genii are, and thoroughly selfish. To me it seems one of the prime catalysts for his ideas on race and particularly Judaism come from his jealousy of succesful Jewish composers such as Meyerbeer. He was for a long time, a wanted man, in exile, running from vast debts, neglected by the artistic community, and at the same time Meyerbeer was a celebrity, earning huge amounts and his artworks, which Wagner saw as dead-end and artificial were being performed everywhere.

    It is important to remember, that Wagner only ever spoke of race and judaism in a cultural context. He never believed in the absolute superiority of any one race, but held the opinion that the races were different and that mixing them could only have negative consequences, "the ruin of the white races may be referred to their having been obliged to mix with them; whereby, as remarked already, they suffered more from the loss of their purity than the others could gain by the ennobling of their blood". Jews are jews, and Germans are germans - Jewish art can have no meaning to a German, nor can German art have meaning to a Jew. In his later years, Wagner said (recorded in Cosima's diaries), "If I were to write one thing about the Jews, it would be that I hold nothing against them, it is just that they descended on us Germans too soon".

    He held many of the same opinions on the French, who were the dominant culture at that time in Europe. His grudge was that the true German art was necessarily different that that of the French, and that it was being oppressed by their cultural domination. He saw that German art was just maturing, and wasnt ready to absorb the Jewish influence which he mentions in the quote above.

    It is untrue that Gobineau's ideas have infiltrated into Wagner's works. Wagner and Gobineau only met briefly in 1876, and then again 1880, by which time the libretto of Parsifal was long finished. In 1880 Gobineau stayed at Wahnfried for a while and the two frequently argued. Cosima recorded an incident where Wagner "Positively exploded in favour of Christianity as compared to racial theory." Christianity, a religion he regarded as fundamentally built, albeit corrupted, on Schopenhauerian compassion, he explained in an essay written in response to Gobineau's book; "To us Equality is only thinkable as based upon a universal moral concord, such as we can but deem true Christianity elect to bring about."

    The influence of Chamberlain is also debatable. Wikipedia says he moved to Austria in 1889, and that his ideas on race began to take shape after this. By this time, Wagner had been dead for 6 years.

    I am glad that you admit it is only a personal take, when you propose that Wagner's operas and music are filled with anti-semitism. This is something you will be hard-pressed to back-up. Wagner was nothing if not keen to justify his choices, and the process of composition and writing was recorded in great detail in essays, books, letters and in Cosima's diaries. In developing his later operas, he talks of politics, Schopenhauer, religion, love, death, but never race.

    Further, Wagner never took public action against a Jew. Some of his greatest friends were Jews, including the first conductor of Parsifal, Hermann Levi - Wagner described this as one of the "most beautiful friendships of my life". Yes it is true that Wagner wanted Levi to convert to Christianity before he conducted Parsifal, but this again comes from his belief that a Jew would not fully understand the German work based on Christian principles of compassion.

    One must also be aware that anti-semitism far worse than that espoused by Wagner was socially acceptable and widespread.

    I dont wish to defend or justify anti-semitism of any kind. Wagner's theories are disgusting, and completely false. I only wish to put his ideas into its context, and provide some more detail, which is often lacking in the light of the past centuries events.

    The above is all an awful part of his personality, but it is just one part. His dramas all show concepts based on love and compassion, a central pillar of Schopenhauer. Parsifal is explicit in redemption through love and compassion, as is Tannhauser. The Ring is a political and metaphysical work expounding the foundation of a society based on love and common good. These all seem to be fundamentally good lessons, and if you adopt Schopenhauers view of the world they are irrefutably good and moral, further Schopenhauer's morality is not something many in the world will disagree with as a whole.
    To this end he was a vegetarian, and he worked hard to ensure animals were treated compassionately and had rights. In Cosima's diary you can read that for a long time he was involved with campaigns working to end vivisection.

    For him it was necessary that art be an expression of philosophy, that it have a higher purpose and more influence than had been usual up to that point. You may consider this megalomania, but to myself and many others this is part of what makes his dramas so powerful and attractive.


    Again, I just want to emphasise that I am not an anti-semite, and that the above is not a defence of anti-semitisim in general, nor of Wagner's antisemitism. This is a very touchy subject, and I have tried to tread a thin line.
    Last edited by emiellucifuge; Jun-14-2012 at 11:07.
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    Wagner's music has absolutely nothing to do with rascism. Wagner's music dramas were not written as hateful curses to Jewish people. It's always baffled me why people don't like Wagner because Hitler liked him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    Yes, you are right, I agree, it's a valid objective analysis. But that's not the question. The question is about the internal conflict of the hypothetical listener. You feel admiration for the person, but at the same time you know that this person has an irrational hate for people like you. I mean, all that objective analysis is nice, but I think is not that easy. Since the good is more memorable than the evil, I suppose that Science is correct. I think that the conflict will puzzle the listener but in the long term will be sufficiently moved by the music as to forget the issue.
    I was too much rational, the hate is not rational, you are right.
    I hope in the future the jews don't matter about if Hitler liked Wagner.
    All is Hitler's fault!!! But why Mahler admired Wagner or Wagner admired Meyerbeer?? I don't understand... maybe the artists don't worry abaout rascism when the point is art...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hesoos View Post
    The main point is the music.

    Napoleon was an evil creature and like Hitler and Stalin caused a lot of dead. But Napoleon spread the French Revolution equality ideals.

    Wagner was a rascist, but he spread a wonderful music.

    Is the Wagner's music rascist? I don't think so... But his music is really wonderful.
    You can not admire Wagner like a person (he was untruthful to all the people), but like a genius is admirable... and that is the point
    Napoleon was a genius and I'm one of his admirers at least until his defeat in Russia

    And about Wagner and 19th century Germany .. It was true that Jews has many financial powers in the country and may had helped and employ their Jew brethren more than christian Germans. But It was a harsh reaction to call them inferior and hate them, raising the antisemitism. Raising the taxes for would be enough! ...

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    Much of the hostility toward Wagner after WW2 has been the result of guilt by associatopm .
    While we shouldn't condone Wagner's undeniable anti-semitism , we need to remember that Hitler read much
    into Wagner's works which simply is not there .
    As reprehensible as Wagner's Anti-semitism was, it was nowhere near as extreme as Hitler's ; Wagner disliked Jews in prinicple and claimed that they were intrinsically incapablew of creating great art . He was always making disparaging comments about them either in speech or in print, but he never advocated genocide for any group of people .
    The problem is that Hitler read his own insane ideas into Wagner's works . Take the Ring ; it does NOT glorify Germanic chauvinism or celebrate any teutonic victory over Jews and Judaism. It takes place in a mythical ancient Germany ruled the supreme God Wotan and contains no Jewish characters. Some musicologists and critics have described the dwarfs Mime and Alberich as racist caricatures of depicting stereotypical Jews as well as the obnoxious and pedantic Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, but this is extremely questionable .
    Furthermore, the Riing ends with the cataclysmic destruction of Wotan and the Gods through his own
    lust for power and riches , hardly a glorification of Teutonic racism .
    If you go through the librettos of all the Wagner operas you will not find a single Jewish character , no discussions of Jews and Judaism and not a single statement by any character which could remotely be construed as anti-semitic .
    In th e first act of Die Meistersinger there is a reference to David and Goliath in the Bible, but it's just a passing reference, and there is nothing anti-semitic about it .
    In the second act of Parsifal, there is an indirect reference to the crucifixion of Jesus ; Kundry , trying to seduce Parsifal , recalls how she was cursed to live a horrible existence throughout eternity, constantly being reborn as different woman in horrible circumstances because she laughed at Jesus while he was suffering on the cross . In her firstincarnation when she committed this blasphemous act, she may or may not have been a Jewess, or possibly a Roman woman. This is not specified .

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